Getting to know you
Alone with his new slave and phoenix, Atem took the time to study Tima closely. She appeared to be his height but it was hard to figure since she had her head down. Her hair was wavy but extremely dirty and full of knots; Atem could not tell if this was because she came from a poor family before she became a slave or because Roxanna's family treated her horribly. What fascinated the Pharaoh the most was the color of her skin. While he had seen people with lighter tanned skin than his, he never had a chance to look at it this close. He looked at her. "Tima, is it?" When she nodded, he told her, "You can speak to me."
Tima just said quietly, "Yes, Master."
Atem felt uncomfortable hearing her call him that. He did not like to be called that because he believed in equality, even though he was taught that he was a god to his people. "You don't have to be so formal."
Tima peeked up at him. "But Master…it is what I have been told back at Greece."
Atem understood that, knowing that every culture is different. "Well, here, we do things a little different."
Tima blinked at him as Tarra looked at him, seeing right through him. You're still uncomfortable.
Atem mentally glared at her. He did not want her to act as his inner voice. Tima took notice of Tarra and tilted her head. Catching her look, Atem said, "This is Tarra, my phoenix."
Tima started to get a little nervous, as if ready to be struck down for looking at something that belonged to him. Wanting to break the tension, Atem asked, "Are you from Greece yourself?"
Tima shook her head. "No…the promise land."
Atem blinked in confusion. The Head of All Servants Kiko came from a place that her people called the Promise Land but he did not think that Tima was like Kiko. When Atem asked her to explain, Tima lowered her head and said, "It's all right, Master…I don't expect anyone to know where that is…"
Hoping that he did not upset her, Atem told her, "It's not that…I was just a little confused."
Tima did not respond, keeping her head lowered. She was starting to get homesick since she had not been in Israel in years and missed it. However, she remembered that she was in the presence of her new master and looked up at him. "So…what will you have me do? I am to be of service to you."
Atem did not want her to serve him but he did not know how to tell her that. Tarra had sat back and observing the conversation between the two. She looked at Atem and asked, Confused, are you?
Atem mentally sighed. Tarra, I just don't know what to do. He then noticed the look in Tima's eyes. And I have a feeling she's homesick.
Tarra looked at Tima and noticed the same look. That gave her an idea. Tell you what. Why don't I get Kiko? She can show Tima around.
Atem nodded and turned. Very well. I will be in my study until dinner.
Tarra nodded and flew off to find Kiko. Tima watched her in amazement; while she had seen exotic birds in Greece, she had never seen a bird of legend like a phoenix. Atem started to walk to his study, wanting to know more about this Promise Land that Tima mentioned and Tima immediately started to follow him. This made the Pharaoh feel uncomfortable; he did not want a slave that remained at his heels at all time. He turned around, making Tima stop, and said, "You don't need to follow me all the time."
Tima blushed and lowered her head. "But…I'm your slave."
Atem sighed. "Yes, but you're a person as well." Tima peeked up at him, surprised to hear that, as he continued to walk. She stayed still for a moment, trying to digest what he said. It had been so long since someone called her a person. Atem hoped that that statement would both make her feel better and keep her from following. However, soon he heard her footsteps following. Sighing, he paused, making her pause as well. "Master?"
Atem turned around; he had to fix something immediately. "Stop calling me that."
Tima recoiled a little, expecting a hit. "I'm sorry."
Atem shook his head. "Please, do not apologize."
Tima looked down a little. "Then…what shall I call you? I was taught to call people Master or Mistress."
Atem gently grabbed her chin and made her look him in the eyes. "Then we're going to break that habit. From now on, you shall call me Pharaoh, not Master."
Tima blinked a couple of times. "Permission to ask you a question?"
Atem let go of her chin. "Of course. And you may ask me anything you wish; you do not need my permission."
Tima tried to hide the blush that was arising on her face. After years of being a slave in Greece in a horrible household, this was culture shock for her. "Why do you not like being called Master? You own me now."
Atem looked away and murmured, "Not by choice."
Tima tilted her head again. "What?"
Atem shook his head. "It's too long of a story. I'm sure you would not understand."
He did not want to dump his emotional turmoil on her; that was not right in his eyes. He turned and continued to walk to his study. Hearing her footsteps, he sighed and looked back at her as he kept walking. "Tima, you don't have to follow me all the time. You have choice."
Tima almost tripped in shock. "Choice?"
Atem nodded. "Of course. You do not always have to be at my beck and call. If I need something, I can always do it myself."
Tima could not believe that she was hearing. "But you're the Pharaoh! Surely, you cannot go things on your own! That's why I'm here, to serve you!"
Atem kept back an exasperated sigh. He felt like he was getting nowhere fast. He continued to think about how to answer her to both make her feel like she was doing her job and to get past the brainwashing she got from Greece. When he arrived at his study, he looked back at her and said the first thing that came to his mind: "You can keep me company."
Tima blinked in response. "Is that all?" Atem nodded, leaving Tima confused. She was expecting him to have a command to do chores and such. But just keep him company? She shook her head a little. "You seem so different, Ma--"
Atem immediately cut her off. "Ah! What have we established, Tima?"
Tima blushed a little. "Pharaoh."
Atem nodded and smiled. "There. That's a start."
Tima looked at him, still wrapping her head around this new place, as Tarra returned to Atem's shoulder. He immediately looked at her. Well?
Tarra's eyes sparkled, as if she was smiling. Found her in the gardens as usual. Took a while to tear her away from the plants but she's on her way.
As soon as she said that, a girl ran up to them. He looked up and smiled at who was coming. Tima looked and looked at the newcomer. She had short blond hair that appeared to go down to her shoulder blades but it was hard to tell since she had her hair up in two pigtails. She was dressed in a short sleeved, shoulder less shirt that was short enough to show her belly, which was decorated with a scarf belt, with a long ankle-length skirt that revealed sandals on her feet. What stood out the most about her was her bright green eyes. Tima had never seen such green eyes before, for she had never met a Ceterian before. The girl smiled and bowed her head to Atem. "I'm sorry about that, Atem! I was busy tending to the plants and I couldn't leave them alone."
Atem chuckled. "It's all right, Kiko. It's in your nature."
Atem knew that, as a Ceterian, Kiko was very tuned into the planet. Her people had had a long history but it was a history that was very secretive and mysterious for reasons unknown. All that was clear was that Ceterians had a close relationship with the Earth itself and that their distinctive mark was their green eyes. Kiko turned her attention to Tima. "So…is this the girl Tarra told me about?"
Tima blinked in confusion. Tarra was a bird; how could a bird tell anyone anything? She wanted to ask for an explanation but Atem nodded before Tima could ask. "Yes, this is Tima."
Kiko turned to the new girl. "Nice to meet you. I'm Kiko."
Tima did not know if she should respond or not. She had been taught in Greece to not respond to anyone who was not her master; however, she knew that things were different here in Khement. A little lost, she looked at Atem, who nodded. "Go on, Tima. Introduce yourself; Kiko won't bite."
Kiko smiled and joked, "Hard, that is…" Atem smirked and looked at Kiko, who giggled and waved her hands. "I joke! I joke!"
Atem shook his head in amusement as Tima looked between Atem and Kiko, experiencing culture shock again. The two of them, one a Pharaoh and one a servant, were talking like they were equals; this would never happen back at the place where she lived in Greece. Seeing Kiko looking at her, Tima blushed and looked down a little. "Um…I'm Tima."
Kiko smiled and nodded. "Welcome, Tima of the Promise Land."
Tima looked up, her eyes widened in surprise. "H-How did you know…?"
Kiko grinned with pride. "You can say that I'm one with the land."
Tima blinked with confusion so Atem tried to explain. "Tima, Kiko is a Cetria. Her people can communicate with the land and the plants that grow in the land."
It was clear by the look on her face and by the fact that Tima could not stop looking at Kiko's bright green eyes that Tima had never heard of a Cetria before. Kiko saw her look and smiled. "You like my eyes?"
Tima blushed and immediately looked away. "I'm sorry."
Kiko giggled and waved it off as a servant came up and bowed to Atem. "Dinner is prepared, my Pharaoh. Lady Roxanna is waiting for your presences."
Atem sighed and nodded. When the servant left, he said, "I guess there's no backing away from this…"
Kiko smiled out of sympathy for Atem. She knew that he was in this situation not by choice. "Don't worry, Pharaoh. Things will go well."
Just then, Seth passed them. Seeing Kiko, he stopped and looked at her with crossed arms. "Aren't you supposed to take care of the servants who are preparing dinner?"
Kiko waved her hand at him. "Yes, yes, I know! No need to remind me, High Priest."
With that, Kiko left. Tima watched her and found herself asking, "Where is she going?"
Atem heard her and told her, "She's going to serve me and Roxanna our dinners."
Tima's head immediately snapped up. "But I'm your slave! I must do that!"
Before Atem could stop her, Tima took off running after Kiko. Watching her, Seth noted, "Unusual girl."
Atem disagreed. "She's not unusual…she's just…different…"
When he said that, Atem spoke in a tone that seemed sad and looked in the direction where Tima took off. He felt sorry for her; from what he's seen by how she acted, she had a tough life as a slave and now she had to serve him, anticipating the same hard life. Seth noticed Atem's look. "My Pharaoh, is there something wrong?"
Atem shook his head. "No…it's nothing."
"If it is important, I need to know."
Atem shook his head and left to the dining room. It was a tall room decorated with paint designs and a few statues of the gods. The table was long and had eight chairs on either side. At the head of the table was a throne-like chair that Atem sat at and there was a plate set, water dish, and goblet waiting for him. To his dismay, Roxanna was sitting in the chair next to his with her own plate set and goblet. She had changed into a cotton dress. Seeing him, she stood up and bowed her head. "Good evening, Pharaoh."
Atem nodded at her and took his seat. "I trust you are enjoying your stay?"
Roxanna sat down with a big smile and nodded. "Oh yes, Pharaoh! Everywhere I go in this palace, it seems grander and grander! I don't think even the king of Greece has a grand palace as yours!"
Atem thought about that and took it as a compliment. After all, he had never been to Greece and did not know how different it was compared to his home. However, he got a glimpse of both Greece and Roxanna's true side with their next conversation. Roxanna pointed to a statue of the goddess Hatmehit. "But I must ask: what are the statues of animals and people?"
Atem looked at Hatmehit and gave her a silent prayer of thanks for the fish they were going to eat. "They are our gods."
Roxanna tilted her head. "You have your own gods?"
Like Atem, Roxanna had never been outside of Greece until now. Because of that, she only knew about the gods and goddesses that she grew up with. Before she could ask Atem to explain more about his deities, Tima came in with a plate of food in each hand and a pitcher of wine held against her chest with her arm. Atem saw this and noted that Tima seemed a little nervous around Roxanna. She served Atem and Roxanna since Roxanna was the Pharaoh's guest, bowed in silence, and left. Atem wanted to thank her but Roxanna chirped before he could speak. "Wonderful! She's doing what she was taught to do!"
That caught Atem's attention. "Taught…?"
Roxanna nodded. "That's correct. You see, the servants we give as gifts are taught to only serve their master. If they do not, there will be a consequence."
Atem did not like what he was hearing. "Consequence?"
Roxanna did not note the concern in his voice and nodded. "Nothing severe. It's only as big as the crime. Like if they refuse to serve their master: if they refuse for (let's say) ten days, they don't eat for those ten days."
Atem's stomach turned at the sound of that. But curiosity touched him about Tima and he had to ask: "Has Tima ever refused?"
Roxanna took a sip of the wine and thought for a moment. "Only to not take care of our idols. That really made Father angry. But since that's her faith, I just gave the job to someone else." She took another sip and added, "But she knows that if she does not obey you, my Pharaoh, she will receive the punishment."
Atem closed his eyes for a moment. He was curious about Tima refusing to care of the Greek idols because of her faith. He could accept and respect that choice because Kiko and a few other slaves had their beliefs that were different than his. Atem knew better than to judge someone because their faith was different. However, he did not the sound of Tima being taught that punishment was around the corner if she did not submit to her master. Atem was not like that and he was not liking Roxanna even more for her not seeing anything wrong with how she was raised. Roxanna looked at Atem. "Atem? Are you all right?"
Atem blinked, waking him up from his zone. "Huh? Yes, I'm fine."
Roxanna smiled. "I'm glad. You looked like something was bothering you."
Atem shook his head and dipped his hands in his water bowl to clean them. "Not at all."
Roxanna followed suit, not wanting to insult Atem with bad table manners. "All right then!"
They started to eat their food and Roxanna started to talk about Greece and herself. Atem half-listened and peeked to where Tima went off to. He knew that she was taught how to be a "proper slave" by Roxanna's family but he knew that there was more to her than that. 'Tima…if only I knew what you were thinking…' He only hoped that the next six months would be tolerable.